Wellbeing at The Firs: Wednesday, 11th September 2019

We do a lot of sessions for the Wildlife Trust’s Wellbeing teams, whose focus is on providing opportunities for vulnerable people suffering from anxiety, depression or stress. As someone who used to be a stressed out, anxious, depressive, I understand the value of getting into the natural environment as a great method of alleviating those conditions.  The issue has always been getting everyone to site at a time when there will be a lot of bird activity for us to show them. The Wildlife Trust’s team pulled out all of the stops, arranged new pick up points, and managed to get 20 or so beneficiaries to the Firs by 9:00 this morning.

Birds in woodlands are most active in the few hours after sunrise, so the later we start the process the fewer birds we catch. My last session with the Wellbeing team resulted in just 6 birds caught in 3 hours.  Also, my last ringing session at the Firs, on the 25th July, was the morning after the fantastic electric storms and torrential downpour the night before and yielded just 15 birds in 5 hours.  I approached today’s session hopeful that we would have enough to show them.  I was joined by Ellie Jones, for the session. As she is the Northern Reserves Field Officer for the Wildlife Trust (as well as being one of my extremely capable C-permit trainees), this really was a Wiltshire Wildlife Trust event!

We set the nets down the central glade at the Firs and had them open by 7:30. We took a Robin out of the net that had managed to blunder in before we had actually opened them, and processed that. The thing about the Firs is that the nets are set in two long lines, so we empty them on the way down and take any others that wander in on the way back up, guaranteeing that the birds spend the minimum time in the nets.  Next round we took 6 birds out and thought “Hopefully there will be a few more than this by the time the Wellbeing groups arrive”. We processed them, had a coffee, and went for the next round: 35 birds, mainly Blue and Great Tits, on the way down. By the time we had extracted them, another 20 had entered the nets for the journey back.  I left Ellie to finish extracting birds, and to shut the nets (we didn’t need any more birds for this session) whilst I went back to the ringing station to start processing the birds and show them to the group who had, by now, assembled.

It was a really good morning’s work. We had a lot of interest from the group: lots of questions, and they had lots of opportunities to get close to a good number of common woodland species.  Part way through the morning the weather turned a bit damp: with some very fine rain. Fortunately the team had brought a portable gazebo with them (I must invest) which they moved over to cover the ringing station.  Although the rain was light and stopped quite quickly, the water had collected on the leaves of the trees in the wood and so, every time the wind blew, we had another shower – so the gazebo was a great help.

The list for the day was: Nuthatch {1}; Treecreeper 1[1]; Blue Tit 1[19](2); Great Tit [18](3); Marsh Tit [1]; Long-tailed Tit {3}; Wren 1[2](1); Robin 1[1](1); Chiffchaff [4]; Willow Warbler [1].  Totals: 4 ringed, unaged, from 2 species; 4 adults ringed from 4 species; 47 juveniles ringed from 8 species and 7 birds recaptured from 4 species, making 62 birds processed from 10 species.

We didn’t reopen the nets: we had a good catch and the weather had turned damp, the time was approaching 11:00, so the Wellbeing crew all disappeared off to Blakehill Farm for bacon sandwiches, tea and coffee, Ellie went to work and I packed up the site.  Thanks to Jo, Chelsie, Keeley and Emma for organising their people, for the coffee and to Keeley especially for the fabulous Dorset apple cake!